Stephen Wolfram Q&A

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Some collected questions and answers by Stephen Wolfram

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May 14, 2012

From: Reddit AMA

What other scientists or researchers, past and present, do you admire most?

Well, one might think this was a very subjective question… but perhaps there’s a way to answer it, at least in part, by pure data mining…

Let’s look at the list of people referenced in the NKS book:

Now just count the mentions (with Mathematica of course)… and here are the winners: Alan Turing (19); Emil Post (14); John von Neumann (12); Gottfried Leibniz (12); Isaac Newton (11); Marvin Minsky (10); David Hilbert (10); Kurt Godel (10); Aristotle (10); Benoit Mandelbrot (9); Carl Friedrich Gauss (9); Leonhard Euler (9); Euclid (9); Georg Cantor (9); Claude Shannon (8); John Conway (8); James Clerk Maxwell (7); Johannes Kepler (7); Albert Einstein (7); Rene Descartes (7);…

Some of this I’m not surprised by; some is pretty surprising. I think Emil Post does so well because of a bunch of technical results that I used.

I’m not surprised Alan Turing “wins”; the things I’ve done seem remarkably aligned with his interests, e.g.

There are, I suppose, two main dimensions in terms of deciding who one might admire: first, what they did and how they thought, and second, how they lived their lives. There’s also a different standard for people one’s personally known, as opposed to historical figures.

Among historical people, I think I’ve been most impressed by the work and thought of Turing, Leibniz, Newton, Godel, Einstein, Euclid, Darwin (and maybe others I’m now forgetting). Though I wouldn’t emulate many of the ways these people lived their lives…

Of famous people I’ve personally known, I’ve probably been most impressed by Richard Feynman and Steve Jobs.

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